Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of June 10th

posted Jun 10, 2018, 2:43 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Jun 10, 2018, 2:44 PM ]

Tips for Summer Reading Success!

As summer begins, I have been thinking about all the amazing progress my students have made this year. Like many teachers, I worry about them losing ground because they're not reading over summer break.  
In my latest blog post, I share my top tips and accessible resources to help empower our students to embark on another summer of reading. Read the post here here.
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of June 3rd

posted Jun 3, 2018, 7:44 PM by Courtney Richardson

The Next Step Framework Fits Perfectly in Dual Language Educational Programs

By Julie A. Taylor, M.Ed. (Bilingual Education and Teaching English as a Second Language), and currently pursuing doctoral degree in Reading, Language, and Literacy)
As more diverse students arrive in our classrooms, efficient and flexible instruction, targeted to meet students’ individual needs is more important than ever.  The Next Step guided reading framework is the perfect balanced literacy model for dual language learners at every grade level.  With the Next Step framework, small-group instruction is systematic, explicit, and differentiated. The lesson components target all of the high priority reading needs for emerging bilinguals and children who are enrolled in dual language programs.
Grades kindergarten through five are the ideal times to address the developmental needs of diverse readers so all students can become proficient, engaged readers.  The Next Step framework includes all of the building blocks of Spanish and English literacy.  Through the dynamic Next Step guided reading lessons, your dual language students increase proficiency in:
alphabet/letter sound knowledge 
auditory and visual processing
oral language development
concepts of print
phonemic awareness and phonics
developing sight word knowledge
strategic decoding skills
building vocabulary and background knowledge
increasing fluency
applying high-yield comprehension strategies
advancing writing skills
Because of the reciprocal relationship among these literacy skills, the effects on reaching achievement are powerful when this multi-component guided reading instruction is provided – and dual language learners can benefit from this instruction as well!  Research has shown that teachers whose reading instruction was based on students’ language and reading skills achieved the highest literacy outcomes for their students (Alberto, Compton, Connor, & O’Connor, 2014).  They determined that whole class instruction is insufficient to teach in ways that students can apply new knowledge in new contexts or use in conversation.  Following the Next Step framework for small group instruction ensures that all students receive individualized, developmentally appropriate, reading and writing instruction. 
If you teach in a dual language program, you can harness the power of guided reading instruction and ensure reading success for your students. There are Spanish resources on Jan’s page, or you can find these resources arranged by guided reading stages on  All of the Next Step resources (lesson plans, abc charts, an alphabet tracing book, and more) – are in Spanish!  
The Next Step framework is a perfect small-group framework to differentiate reading instruction, meet all students’ reading needs, and raise reading achievement. By making these adjustments in your instructional approaches and incorporating guided reading into a balanced literacy model, you can ensure maximum reading success for all students.  
With a master of education degree in Bilingual Education and Teaching English as a Second Language, I am able to provide Next Step professional development for Spanish dual language teachers anywhere in the United States.  You can reach me by email,, or through my website, 

El siguiente marco de paso encaja perfectamente en el lenguaje dual programas educativos
Por Julie A. Taylor, M. Ed. (educación bilingüe y enseñanza de inglés como segunda lengua), y estudiante doctorada en lectura, lengua y alfabetización.
Comó los estudiantes más diversos llegan a nuestras clases nuevas, la instrucción eficiente y flexible, cumplir con las necesidades individuales de los estudiantes es más importante que nunca.  El marco de Next Step de lectura guiada es el modelo de alfabetización equilibrado perfecto para los estudiantes de lenguaje dual en cada nivel de grado.  Con el marco de Next Step, la instrucción para los grupos pequeños es sistemática, explícito, y distinguido por todos los grupos. El objetivo de los componentes de la lección toda la lectura de alta prioridad necesidades de bilingües emergentes y niños que están envueltos en programas de lenguaje dual.
Grados kindergarten a cinco son la tiempos ideales para abordar la desarrollo necesidades de diversos lectores para todos los estudiantes pueden conviértete en lectores competentes y comprometidos.  El marco de Next Step incluye todos los requisitos del alfabetización en Español e inglés.  A través de la dinámica Next Step lecciones de lectura guiada, sus estudiantes de doble idioma aumentar la competencia en:
Alfabeto/conocimiento sano de la letra 
Procesamiento auditivo y visual
Lenguaje oral desarrollo
Conceptos de impresión
El conocimiento del fonema y fonética
Desarrollando conocimiento de la palabra de vista
Habilidades de decodificación estratégica
Edificio vocabulario y conocimiento de fondo
Aumento fluidez
Aplicación de alto rendimiento estrategias de comprensión
Avanzando habilidades de escritura
Debido a la relación recíproca entre estas habilidades de alfabetización, los efectos en alcanzar el logro son poderosos cuando esta instrucción de lectura guiada de varios componentes es proporcionada – İy los estudiantes de lenguaje dual pueden beneficiarse de esta instrucción también!  Las investigaciones han demostrado que los maestros cuya instrucción de lectura se basó en el lenguaje y las habilidades de lectura de los estudiantes lograron los resultados más altos de alfabetización para sus estudiantes (Alberto, Compton, Connor, & O'Connor, 2014).  Determinaron que la instrucción de clase completa no es suficiente para enseñar de manera que los estudiantes puedan aplicar nuevos conocimientos en un nuevo contexto o usarlos en la conversación.  Sigiendo el marco de Next Step para la instrucción del grupo pequeño asegura que todos los estudiantes reciban individualizado, apropiado para el desarrollo, instrucción de lectura y escritura. 
Si enseñas en un programa de lenguaje dual, puede aprovechar la potencia de lectura guiada la instrucción y asegura el éxito de lectura para su estudiantes. Hay recursos españoles en la sitio web de Jan, o puede encontrar estos recursos dispuestos por etapas de lectura guiada en  Todos los materiales para los lecciones el Next Step (planes de lecciones, las cartas ABC, un libro de rastreo del alfabeto, y más – İtodos en Español!  
El marco de Next Step es un marco perfecto por el instrucción de los grupos pequeños para diferenciar la instrucción de lectura, reúna a todos los’ necesidades de lectura, y elevar el logro de lectura. Al hacer estos ajustes en enfoques instruccionales y la incorporación de la lectura guiada en un modelo de alfabetización equilibrada, puede asegurarse máximo éxito de lectura para todos los estudiantes.  
Con una maestría en educación bilingüe y la enseñanza de inglés como segunda lengua, puedo proporcionar el Next Step capacitación profesional para profesores de lenguaje dual en cualquier lugar de Los Estados Unidos.  Puedes contactarse conmigo a, o a través de mi sitio web, 


Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 27th

posted May 28, 2018, 6:21 PM by Courtney Richardson

Word Work for Transitional Readers – Writing Big Words

Students reading at text levels M, N and O often have a large bank of sight words and understand basic phonics skills such as the silent e rule and vowel combinations. But they still need explicit teaching in learning how words work. One activity you can use is called Writing Big Words. This engaging short activity teaches students a specific spelling feature and shows them how to make connections to other words that have the same feature. To do the activity, first select a multisyllabic word from the text that has a common spelling feature (e.g. -tion, -ment, pre-, etc.).  Write the word on the easel and underline the feature. Then dictate two or three words that have the same feature and ask students to write the words on a dry erase board. Here are a few examples you might consider. Remember to use your students’ misspellings and miscues to choose features they need to learn. 
 feature examples
 -ture picture, adventure, capture
 dis- discover, disgust, disturb
 -ity activity, simplicity
 tele telephone, telescope, television
 graph graphic, photograph, autograph
 trans transfer, transform, transport
 sub submerge, subject, subtract

Remember this is teaching; it is not a test. Support students who need help.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 20th

posted May 21, 2018, 6:49 PM by Courtney Richardson

Why should you use a two-day plan for emergent readers?

I was recently asked if teachers could extend the two-day lesson to a three- or four-day plan, using the same book. I don't recommend it for the following reasons: 1) Students will read more books when you use the two-day lesson. This exposes them to more vocabulary and language structures. 2) Using the two-day plan increases engagement and motivation. Just watch your students’ faces when you bring out a new book. They are delighted to read a new story, meet new characters, and learn more interesting facts through nonfiction texts. 3) Using the two-day plan keeps the lesson fast-paced and engaging. Since you know you have to make time to teach a short word study activity on Day 1 and guided writing on Day 2, you will avoid excess talking, and you will teach with a sense of urgency. Remember to put the familiar books in your students’ book boxes so they can reread them with a buddy, by themselves, or with their parents. Rereading familiar stories builds automaticity with sight words, strengthens strategic actions, and promotes fluency.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 13th

posted May 13, 2018, 8:16 PM by Courtney Richardson

Implementing and Sustaining Large Scale Change 

We know that major changes in education take three to five years. Change is not an event. Instead it is a process that requires a sustained focus and team effort. This has been the mantra of the leadership team in the San Jose Unified School District as educators in the district finish year four of a multi-year early literacy initiative in 27 schools. The initiative has included implementation of small group guided reading using Jan Richardson’s Next Step Forward as a guide.
This process began in January, 2015 when district leaders began to develop and articulate a new vision for what early literacy instruction in K-1 classrooms should look like. This included working closely with a consultant and team of teachers in one school. By late that spring, a vision for instruction and a long-term plan for professional learning had evolved. 
This plan included the following research-based principles (Hall & Hord, 2015):
Sustained focus on the vision 
Involvement and support of educators at all district and building levels
Investment in professional learning experiences
Opportunities to check progress
Continuous assistance
Context of supportive change.

While all these principles are important, “continuous assistance” has been a primary focus of the district leadership team—providing ongoing support for professional learning at all levels. For example, each school team, consisting of a principal, instructional coach, k-1 classroom teachers and intervention specialists, has the opportunity to engage in professional learning experiences with an external literacy consultant for the first two years of implementation. These experiences include:
•  A week-long summer institute with demonstration lessons and opportunities to plan and teach
•  Three full-day site visits (over two school years)
•  Multiple conference calls focused on discussing student data and questions about implementation of guided reading.
The school team also receives ongoing district support, which includes the following:
•  A cadre of early literacy coaches visiting for a week at a time to support teachers’ implementation of collaborative literacy experiences that occur during small group reading instruction
•  District leaders (including administrators and district-level coaches) visit to walk-through classrooms and provide feedback.
•  The district has made coaching cycles focused on early literacy instruction a primary focus for the building site coaches.
Continuous support has been provided for district leaders as well—with the consultant and through ongoing conversations that allow the team to revise or adjust plans based on their observations in the schools. Also, implementation has been supported by gradually bringing schools on board. Each summer a select number of schools have been invited to begin this process so that there is capacity for supporting all of the schools over time.
The results of this approach to implementing change are apparent at many levels. In addition to quantifiable improved reading achievement, there has been a change in the learning environment in many classrooms. During walk-throughs in classrooms during the literacy block, leadership team members observe students collaborating with each other, talking about their learning—what they are doing and why. When you walk into a classroom, kids walk up to you and say, “I’m a reader. Can I read to you?” 

Written by: Rachel Powell, Manager, Curriculum Instruction, and EL Services PreK-5
San José Unified School District

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of May 6th

posted May 6, 2018, 3:36 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated May 6, 2018, 8:05 PM ]

How to use Sound Boxes in Guided Writing

Sound boxes (also called Elkonin boxes) are a useful tool for helping students hear
and record sounds in words. By using sound boxes in word study, you teach children
the process of hearing and recording sounds in sequence. Once you have taught the
process during word study, the next step is to use sound boxes during guided
writing when a student needs help writing an unknown word. See the following video
blog for additional suggestions and click here for a handout with word study lessons.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 29th

posted Apr 29, 2018, 10:58 AM by Courtney Richardson

Which comes first, the letter or the sound?

Research has proven that students who enter kindergarten not knowing their letters are at risk. However, we can change this projection if we take immediate action. I’ve spent the past 20 years collecting data on students who enter kindergarten knowing less than 40 letters. Two instructional procedures have quickly taught letter names, letter sounds, and many concepts of print: Tracing the ABC book and the integrated Pre-A lesson. Tracing an ABC book with a tutor is designed to teach letter names (upper and lower case). I recommend that students who do this intervention say the name of the letter twice (as the student traces the letter in the ABC book) instead of saying the letter name, letter sound, and picture (A-/a/-apple). Students with very limited letter knowledge are likely to become overwhelmed if asked to learn the letter name and letter sound at the same time (Lipson & Wixson, 2010, Successful Approaches to RTI ). However, as students learn letter names, they often learn letter sounds since the sound for the letter is often embedded in the name of the letter. Thus, if students know the name of the letter it will be easier for them to remember the sound of the letter (Lipson & Wixson, 2010, Successful Approaches to RTI, p. 42).
At the same time the student is tracing the alphabet book, I recommend a daily, 20-minute lesson that includes working with letters, working with sounds, reading a very easy book with the teacher, and doing interactive writing. These four activities integrate a variety of skills including phonemic awareness, phonics, visual memory, visual scanning, letter formation, directionality, using picture clues, early print concepts, and most important, they learn that reading makes sense. If we catch these readers early, we can close the achievement gap and prevent many of them from experiencing difficulty learning to read. 

Written by: Jan Richardson

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 22nd

posted Apr 22, 2018, 11:20 AM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 29, 2018, 10:59 AM ]

Does assessment make sense?

If assessments do not impact instruction, they are of little value (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996). The first step in teaching guided reading is to get to know your readers. Most teachers use some form of Dr. Marie Clay’s running record to assess their students. Some districts use formal running records three times a year as a summative assessment, but the running record is even more valuable as a formative and diagnostic tool. If the running record contains some errors, it can provide a snapshot of the reader’s strategic processing in addition to an approximate instructional text level. I find running records to be extremely useful, even with fluent readers. By looking for a pattern of errors, I might notice the student ignores inflectional endings, struggles to decode multisyllabic words, or ignores punctuation. Sometimes a slight hesitation on a word signals the student might not know what the word means. But the first thing I analyze is whether the student is monitoring for understanding. A reader who is satisfied to skip or mumble through an unknown word is unaware of the importance of constructing meaning. The next time you sit with your students and listen to them read, ask yourself. Does this student monitor when meaning breaks down? If the answer is no, target monitoring as your next instructional focus. When you confer with the student ask, Were you right? Does that make sense? Did you understand what you just read? Then teach him or her a variety of strategic actions such as rereading, breaking words apart, and asking questions that get to the heart of comprehension. Assessment does make sense when we use it to make instructional decisions.

Written by: Jan Richardson

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 15th

posted Apr 15, 2018, 5:48 PM by Courtney Richardson

2018 Guided Reading Goes Global

“Ma, can I have a lesson, can I have a lesson?” Those are words Tina Gibbs, missionary with GECHAAN ministries in Gembu, Nigeria hears frequently from the children coming to the gate at her compound. Gembu is a very remote town on the Mambilla Plateau in southeastern Nigeria. There is no running water or electricity. Most buildings are made of mud bricks and many people make their living by farming the dry, harsh land. 
Originally, Tina began using Literacy Footprints, the guided reading support kit developed by Jan Richardson and Michele Dufresne, to teach young adults in a technical training program run by GECHAAN. Tina knew there was a great deal of illiteracy in the community since the government has no formal curriculum. There are no textbooks or resource materials and most instructors in the remote areas do not have a degree in education. Still, she was shocked to learn that out of the 65 applicants screened for admission to the training program, not even 15 could read above a first-grade level. Tina needed more than the random worksheets she downloaded off the Internet to meet the needs of these students. When friends in the U.S. suggested Literacy Footprints, Tina knew she had found the right tool. Pioneer Valley Books generously donated a Literacy Footprints Kit for Tina to use. With the guidance of a friend, Tina spent a week observing and learning how to do assessments, use the lesson cards, and teach lessons. By the end of the week she could already see reluctant, self-conscious readers becoming excited, confident, risk takers who couldn’t wait for their next lesson.
A year later, Tina has expanded her reach into the community. She now teaches nine lessons a day, five days a week to community members ages 5- 65. Tina calls the fact that most of the lesson planning is done for her, "...a gift." In addition, Tina uses Literacy Footprints material to extend student learning. The nonfiction books become a platform for science and social studies lessons. Students learn about both their world and the world beyond the village. After reading about plants, for instance, the students can label the parts of the plants growing around them. The landform book helps students identify features of the desert, mountains, and the plateau in their country. Students discover places they never knew existed like Switzerland, comparing and contrasting those places to their homeland. Resources such as the word study cards and magnetic letters have proven to be effective tools for teaching multiple foundational skills including rhyming and oral language.
Literacy Footprints has opened the door to literacy for many in Gembu, but perhaps even greater, is the impact it has had on the self-esteem of the students. Prime examples of this are the cleaning ladies that work on the compound. At 65 years old, Nicoleen never dreamed she would become a reader, much less a teacher! She and four other women are teaching their grandchildren to read. Tina notes that now the women come to work in dresses, with their hair done, a touch of makeup applied, and standing tall. If you ask the women, they will tell you that their greatest joy is to finally be able to read their Bibles! Guided reading is truly enriching the lives of readers young and old around the globe.

Written by: Bonnie Porter

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of April 8th

posted Apr 8, 2018, 5:23 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Apr 29, 2018, 10:59 AM ]

Steps for Making a Big Word

I’ve received several questions about the word study activity, Making a Big Word. I don’t want there to be any confusion about this powerful procedure. Making a Big Word is NOT about teaching a specific word; it’s about teaching children how to hear and see parts in words. 
Steps to Making a Big Word:
1. Choose a multisyllabic word from the story that has easy to hear sounds and a phonetic element they need to learn (e.g. dangerous, reliable, discourage, disgusted, captured, duration, etc.). To make the task easier to manage, I try to select a word that doesn’t have too many duplicate letters.  
2. Give students a tray of magnetic letters and tell them which letters to remove from the tray. I say the letters in alphabetic order so that it is easier for them to find the letters on the tray AND so they don't remove the letters in the order they appear in the word. Distribute any duplicate letters.
3. You say the word. Have students repeat the word while they clap each part (dan-ger-ous).
4. Students use the magnet letters to make the word. Scaffold individuals as needed.
5. Once the students have made the word correctly, tell them to say it again and break the letters apart. They break the word into the audible parts, not necessarily according to syllabic rules.
6. Students make the word once more. If there is time, have them repeat the process. 

Written by: Jan Richardson

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